“You belong in the kitchen”: Social media, virtual manhood acts, and women strength sport athletes’ experiences of gender-based violence online

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Abstract

The virtual world has transformed sport and leisure spaces, including how we communicate and interact with others globally. Despite the positives of social media, it is also a space which may facilitate hate, abuse, discrimination, and gender-based violence. In this study, women strength sport athletes’ experiences and perceptions of gender-based violence through the enactment of Virtual Manhood Acts (VMAs) are explored, using interviews with thirteen competitive women athletes. Findings reveal that VMAs are used to regulate gender norms and ideologies, promote misogyny, and endorse a hierarchical gender order. In addition, women experience appearance-related commentary and gender questioning, which arguably reduces their worth to their appearance, with expectations of conformity to the “male gaze.” Finally, VMAs are targeted towards women through accusations of steroid use and through criticism of form and technique, reinforcing strength sports as a male-domain and marginalising women’s achievements. While previous research has analysed the existence of VMAs online, in this study the importance of considering women’s perceptions of VMAs, and the wider impact they can have, is further considered.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFeminist Media Studies
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2022

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